Forklift Safety... It’s in Your Hands

Each year, hundreds of workers are killed and thousands are injured as a result of forklift accidents. Many of these injuries occur when forklifts are inadvertently driven off loading docks, forklifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, workers are struck by a lift truck, or they fall while on elevated pallets and tines. Most accidents also involve property damage, including damage to overhead sprinklers, racking, pipes, walls, and machinery.

According to OSHA, most injuries and property damage can be attributed to lack of safe operating procedures, lack of safety rule enforcement, and insufficient or inadequate training. All three of these can be corrected with proper training and supervision.

OSHA requires forklift operators to complete a combination of formal classroom instruction, practical training, and on-the-job-experience. Only workers who have successfully completed training and been certified are allowed to operate a forklift. Once trained, operators must be re-evaluated at least every 3 years, retrained whenever workplace conditions change in such a way that impact forklift operation, or when an operator has been observed operating a forklift in an unsafe manner, is involved in an accident or near miss, or is assigned to a different type of lift truck.

Even after a worker has been properly trained and certified, there are several basic safe operating rules that need to be observed each and every work shift:

  • Inspect the forklift for safety before each shift.
  • Report any forklift damage or problems right away.
  • Wear a seat belt, if available.
  • Use extreme caution on grades or ramps, tilting back the load on grades and raising it only as far as needed to clear the road surface.
  • Don’t raise or lower the forks while the forklift is moving.
  • Don’t handle loads that are heavier than the weight capacity of the forklift.
  • Operate the forklift at a speed that allows safe stopping.
  • Slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed.
  • Look toward the travel path and keep a clear view of it.
  • Don’t carry passengers, unless a seat is provided.

Pedestrians also need to take precautions when working in areas where forklifts are being used.

  • Obey traffic signs and keep track of forklifts operating nearby.
  • Be careful in noisy areas where horns or shouted warnings can’t be easily heard.
  • Be extremely cautious at intersections and when turning corners or crossing aisles.
  • Never get a ride on a forklift, ride on the forks, or walk under the lift’s elevated parts, even if the forks are empty.

Forklifts are necessary equipment in many workplaces. They’re large, heavy, and potentially dangerous machines that should be treated with respect. By being properly trained in their operation and taking basic steps toward safety, you can keep yourself and your co-workers safe.

If you have questions about how our products can help make your workplace safer, give our Technical Support Reps a call at 800-631-1246, or email They’re here to help!


Northern Safety Co., Inc.
PO Box 4250. Utica, NY 13504-4250
Phone: 1-800-571-4646
Fax: 1-800-635-1591

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